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Proc Biol Sci. 2011 Jul 7;278(1714):1921-9. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0548. Epub 2011 Apr 13.

Origin of the fittest: link between emergent variation and evolutionary change as a critical question in evolutionary biology.

Author information

1
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA. abadyaev@email.arizona.edu

Abstract

In complex organisms, neutral evolution of genomic architecture, associated compensatory interactions in protein networks and emergent developmental processes can delineate the directions of evolutionary change, including the opportunity for natural selection. These effects are reflected in the evolution of developmental programmes that link genomic architecture with a corresponding functioning phenotype. Two recent findings call for closer examination of the rules by which these links are constructed. First is the realization that high dimensionality of genotypes and emergent properties of autonomous developmental processes (such as capacity for self-organization) result in the vast areas of fitness neutrality at both the phenotypic and genetic levels. Second is the ubiquity of context- and taxa-specific regulation of deeply conserved gene networks, such that exceptional phenotypic diversification coexists with remarkably conserved generative processes. Establishing the causal reciprocal links between ongoing neutral expansion of genomic architecture, emergent features of organisms' functionality, and often precisely adaptive phenotypic diversification therefore becomes an important goal of evolutionary biology and is the latest reincarnation of the search for a framework that links development, functioning and evolution of phenotypes. Here I examine, in the light of recent empirical advances, two evolutionary concepts that are central to this framework-natural selection and inheritance-the general rules by which they become associated with emergent developmental and homeostatic processes and the role that they play in descent with modification.

PMID:
21490021
PMCID:
PMC3107662
DOI:
10.1098/rspb.2011.0548
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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